Composer Bernard Herrmann and film director Alfred Hitchcock had perhaps the most prolific composer-director collaboration in Hollywood history, teaming to create: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1955), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1957), North By Northwest (1958), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964) and Torn Curtain (1966).
According to Herrmann expert Bruce Crawford, Herrmann was the first composer to stand his ground with the powerhouse director, often disregarding Hitchcock’s specific instructions for the music. For Psycho, Hitchcock had insisted the shower murder scene be done in complete silence. Herrmann ignored the directive and composed the shrieking violins that have become emblematic of the movie. When asked later how much of the success of Psycho was due to the music, Hitchcock replied, “33 and one third per cent,” a droll compliment to Herrmann and a reference to the RPM speed of an LP record. The Psycho score contains only string instruments because that is all they could afford. The total budget for the film was $800,000. And yes, black and white film is cheaper than color.
Both men had large personalities that inevitably clashed. Still, at the heart of their relationship was a profound respect. Their collaboration ended when Hitchcock was pressured by Hollywood to be less old-fashioned as the social changes of the 1960s unfolded. He fired Herrmann (but paid his full fee) for not getting hip with the times, as Herrmann continued to compose for a symphony orchestra instead of a 60s pop ensemble. In response, Herrmann chided Hitch for trying to be something he wasn’t. So Bernard Herrmann, the friend of Paul McCartney and an innovator of electronic music, parted company with Alfred Hitchcock over aesthetics.
On a more personal note, Herrmann’s second wife, Lucille Anderson (Lucy II), told Bruce Crawford the story of a dinner party she hosted that was attended by Hitchcock and his spouse. While Lucille was trying to make Hitchcock a daiquiri her blender broke, ruining the frozen concoction for the legendary director. She was very embarrassed and fixed him something else. The next day a large limousine pulled into the driveway of the Herrmann Hollywood home and stopped. Alfred Hitchcock popped out, and handed Lucille a new blender.